Careers Guidance - what use and who's role?

A recent report by The Skills Commission ("Realising our Potential in the 21st Century") examined the provision of information, advice and guidance (IAG) that young people in state schools receive to make them aware of the education and career opportunities available to them. The findings of the report however were far from positive and concluded that IAG is neither as accessible nor of as high a quality as it should be. Furthermore, according to the latest performance figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), nearly one in four students drop out of university before finishing their degree courses, highlighting the need for greater guidance for young people at every stage of the career choice process.

The Inspiring Futures Foundation has been focused on the careers advice and skills development needs of young people for over 50 years. In the autumn of 2007 the not for profit organisation extended its focus to include state schools as well as the independent sector which had been its heartland until then. Here, Chief Executive of Inspiring Futures, Andy Airey discusses the situation and looks at how parents are increasingly getting involved.

In the last seven years funding for careers guidance for young people has fallen by almost 16%; since April 1 this year government funding for careers guidance has been devolved to local authorities but without the need to be ring fenced; many teachers given the responsibility for careers guidance are not professionally qualified to deliver the advice that is expected of them, nor are they given the time to extend their skills base and keep them updated. When evaluated together, these points paint a pretty gloomy picture of careers guidance in the UK today.

The findings of the Skills Commission Report came as little surprise to the team at Inspiring Futures. We conducted research in late 2007 amongst state-school students aged 14-18 who were considering higher education. Their responses repeatedly demonstrated a lack of sufficient guidance being received.

Of course, in an increasingly competitive global economy there is a heightened need to ensure that our young people enter higher education and their subsequent careers, ready equipped to not only survive but thrive. But at the moment, up to 25% of university undergraduates then drop out or switch courses in their first year, according to the HESA report.

While the Skills Commission makes some valid recommendations to government to address the situation, there is a real need to ensure that progress is made now, without delay. Here at The Inspiring Futures Foundation we recognise this and hence our move last autumn to extend our focus to include the state as well as independent sector. Through our Futurewise programme (www.myfuturewise.org.uk), we offer a comprehensive careers and higher education guidance scheme for young people between the ages of 15 and 23 and whilst we work in partnership with schools to deliver this, we are increasingly witnessing a move by parents to take this on board as something that they're willing to invest in themselves for the sake of their children's futures.

In much the same way as private healthcare is no longer being seen as a luxury purchase, we are witnessing a willingness by parents to invest in 'value added' education services such as careers guidance for their children. Parents are already putting their hands in their pockets to support field trips, music lessons or extra tutoring for fundamental elements of their children's education.

Of course by making this investment, they need to be confident they're investing in a premium product. Futurewise is based upon in depth psychometric profiling and 1-2-1 careers guidance, supported with a range of practical tools up to the age of 23. The scheme uniquely offers students, parents and schools the facility to work together, communicate and share ideas and the results speak for themselves.

Take the example of a parent who recently invested in Futurewise as a means to explore her daughter's career interests in the veterinary field - something which the mother had some doubts around. The combination of the career suggestions and the helpful individual consultation led the daughter to decide instead in favour of a career in medicine which more closely aligned with the interest and skills attributes that came from her personalised report.

Finally, the UK job market has changed a great deal and it will continue to do so. Therefore, we must aim to ensure our children receive the best guidance and advice for their future careers.

The Futurewise programme can be accessed via an increasing number of UK state schools or purchased individually by interested parents. Further information can be obtained by contacting The Inspiring Futures Foundation on 01276 687 515 or by visiting www.myfuturewise.org.uk

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